Halloween Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Halloween. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie. It explains the type of content covered in the movie Halloween, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Halloween is a fun and exciting time for many children, but how did Halloween begin? This movie will explore the origins and history of this holiday and how it was first celebrated over two thousand years ago by the Celts of Great Britain and Ireland. The movie will also describe common Halloween traditions today and share tips on how to stay safe on Halloween.

Halloween was first celebrated over two thousand years ago by the Celtic people in Great Britain and Ireland. They celebrated the end of the harvest and beginning of winter with a festival called Samhain. The Celts believed that on Samhain, spirits came and caused sickness and damaged crops. People began leaving out food for the ghosts to appease them. People also wore masks and costumes during their Samhain celebrations to honor or mimic ghosts. When Christianity spread into Celtic lands, holidays were added and changed. November 2nd became All Saints’ Day, to honor saints. November 1st became All Souls’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, to remember those who had died. Some children may recognize that Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday celebrated in many parts of Mexico. This holiday falls on All Souls’ Day. October 31st became All Hallow’s Eve, or the evening before All Hallows’ Day. The name eventually became shortened to Halloween.

Since Halloween falls near the end of the harvest, many traditional foods are associated with the fall season, including pumpkins, apples, popcorn, and nuts. Candy “corn” is a nod to the fall harvest as well. There are many symbols related to Halloween, and they are usually related to ghosts or death. Brainstorm different symbols with your children, such as skeletons, ghosts, black cats, witches, and a full moon.

Today, people still dress up in costumes for Halloween, as the Celts did thousands of years ago. They also give out food to appease the “spirits”, or trick-or-treaters, that come to their doors. While many trick-or-treaters receive treats or snacks, some also collect money for charities. Remind your children that a charity is a group that does good things for an entire community. Why might Halloween be a good opportunity to help a charity?

Discuss Halloween with your children. How do they celebrate this holiday? Remind your children that a tradition is a custom people do over and over again to celebrate or honor something. Traditions are passed down through generations and can change over time. Today, common Halloween traditions include wearing costumes, going trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, and carving jack-o-lanterns.

While Halloween is a fun holiday, it is important that children stay safe since they are out at night. Young children should always trick-or-treat with an adult or responsible sibling. They should take flashlights to help them see and avoid wearing all dark clothing so they can be seen. Those wearing masks should be able to breathe and see well through them. Halloween can also be on a chilly night, so trick-or-treaters should dress appropriately for the weather. A good tip is to try on Halloween costumes a few days before to make sure everything is safe and fits well. Children should only eat well-wrapped candy and snacks and should check over their stash with an adult before consuming.

Help turn Halloween into a celebration that goes beyond candy and costumes. When your children learn about Halloween, they learn about world history and how traditions spread and change over time.